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Posts Tagged ‘Jack London’

“A Garish Nightmare of American Annihilation,” and Other News

July 22, 2015 | by

hiroshimabiggs

Geoffrey Biggs’s Hiroshima cover (detail), 1948.

  • Ice cream: delicious summertime treat or agent of moral turpitude? In fin de siècle Scotland, ice cream parlors “with mirrored walls and leather seats” became “the scourge of the prudish bourgeoisie, who saw them as papist dens of vice”: “Among the more egregious crimes committed by the shops’ proprietors was that of allowing young people of both sexes to intermingle and smoke. One inspector had said that he had seen girls of ‘tender years’ smoking cigarettes in the shop. They were also seen dancing to ‘music supplied by a mouth organ’ … It was concluded that ice cream shops embodied ‘perfect iniquities of hell itself and ten times worse than any of the evils of the public house. They were sapping the morals of the youth of Scotland.’ ”
  • Frances Kroll Ring, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s longtime secretary, died last month. She had many critical tasks in his life, one of which was to rid him of his anti-Semitism: “It’s entirely possible that Frances Kroll was the first Jewish person he ever spent any time with … ‘Jews lose clarity,’ he jotted in his Notebooks. ‘They get to look like old melted candles, as if their bodies were preparing to waddle’ … As Kroll tells it, Fitzgerald displayed a great deal of curiosity about Jewishness, pestering her about Jewish characteristics and customs. He was fascinated by ‘the Passover feast’ and the practice of keeping kosher.”
  • Jack London spent his youth shoveling coal in a cannery, so he really, really, really wanted to become a successful writer and leave that hell behind. He had a good year in 1903: The Call of the Wild was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post, bringing the success that allowed him to write full-time. He conveyed his newfound wisdom to aspirant writers in a piece called “Getting Into Print.” Some of it’s still true in this century: “Don’t quit your job to write unless there is none dependent on you.” Other parts are not: “Fiction pays best of all, and when it is of a fair quality is more easily sold.”
  • When John Hersey’s Hiroshima appeared in paperback, it sported a new, terrifically misguided cover, becoming what Paula Rabinowitz called “a garish nightmare of American annihilation”: “In this image, two people, not Japanese, are fleeing an explosion just beyond the frame. They are young, white, and stylish: she epitomizes New Look fashion in her loafers and gathered skirt, he sports pleated cuffs and a fitted trench coat … The cover artist, Geoffrey Biggs, wasn’t trying to be deceptive. As he says, in a note that sits just before the copyright page, he was trying to be universal: ‘I just drew two perfectly ordinary people—like you or me—and had them portray alarm, anxiety, and yet wild hope for survival as they run from man-made disaster in a big city—a city like yours or mine.’ ”
  • In which the Argentine writer Sergio Chejfec dissects names, first and foremost his own: “Some years ago I had the idea of asking several writer friends if they wouldn’t care to reflect on their own surname … This task—to speak about one’s surname and to portray oneself through it—contains, I think, a touch of transcendence that brings us closer to death. We insert a mark—which is our emblem, i.e. the commentary—into an undefined series of fairly indistinct moments which is characterized precisely by the absence of marks … That common coin which is our surname, received at times like a baton, needs us so as to take on substance and, as it were, identity.”

What We’re Loving: Fires, Isolation, Whispering Gallery

February 1, 2013 | by

Walk in New York - NYC Vintage - Postcard - Grand Central Terminal

Remember Rod McKuen? He’s the one who wrote those illustrated books of free verse with titles like Come to Me in Silence and Listen to the Warm. In the 1970s, McKuen called himself America’s most popular poet, and he may well have been. Since then he has faded into obscurity, without an heir—until now. For reasons best known to themselves, the poet and singer David Berman, the photographer Michael Schmelling, and the painter-sculptor Friedrich Kunath have created You Owe Me a Feeling, an unlikely late masterpiece in the McKuen mode. “Love is the 51st state,” Berman writes. And: “The whole country is turning / into LA (so let’s move to LA).” And: “Golden / retrievers / aren’t dogs, / they’re dogs / about dogs.” These aperçus appear between portraits of a rugged artiste doing his thing on a Kunath canvas, hefting a giant Kunath shoe, or nuzzling one of Kunath’s human-faced tangerines. It’s kind of hard to describe, but we all loved it, and (even though one of us [Nicole] has an e-mail address borrowed from a David Berman song) none of us happened to be stoned. —Lorin Stein

What better way to celebrate the Centennial of Grand Central station than with a dozen bivalves at the Oyster Bar and a visit to the Whispering Gallery? While there, check out the New York Transit Museum’s exhibit “Grand by Design: A Centennial Celebration of Grand Central Terminal,” on view through March 15. —Sadie Stein Read More »

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Jack London Advises; Baboons “Read”

April 13, 2012 | by

  • Slate weighs in on the e-book case: “The DoJ’s action effectively robs publishers of the ability to price their own products and robs other retailers of any hope of competing effectively with Amazon. Hence the DoJ has all but guaranteed a future in which readers end up with fewer well-edited books—both physical and electronic—and in which writers feel less free to speak against concentrated power.”
  • Here is an igloo made of books.
  • Baboons reading … remedially.
  • We have a title: J. K. Rowling’s adult debut will be titled The Casual Vacancy.
  • Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul Museum of Innocence (which started as a novel) opens later this month.
  • The challenge of culling books.
  • Jack London did not sugarcoat it for a young writer.
  • David Sedaris: “Throughout my 20s and early 30s—my two-books-per-week years—I did most of my reading at the International House of Pancakes.”
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